Two thoughts struck me:
- The phrase “centralized decisioning technology” so offended me that I almost stopped reading on the 1st line. But I didn’t…
- I wondered if this was the newest buzzword to be coined for the problem which has plagued us since we invented disparate teams of marketers and salespeople, gave them jobs which impact each other significantly, and then didn’t give them a formal means of communication.
The writer did not sign his or her name and because I mean to refer to the author several times, I will simply call this person, “him”. Sorry if you’re female, it’s just that I’m male and can thus take a man to task more politically correctly than a woman.
So lets clarify the issue of the buzzword upfront and I promise to use official English to do it. The writer defined centralized decision-making technology as, “that which coordinates outbound and inbound marketing through a single system maintaining a comprehensive contact and response history”. Which brings me to another nit to pick. He considers the technology to be useful only in helping deal with the different data accumulated for Inbound activity versus Outbound efforts, to bridge a gap which exists only within the same department! I think the most exciting aspect of a centralized database is its ability to bring together different groups of people or even different companies.
His post, though, did cite a Unica study which revealed some interesting stats about centralized database adoption rates. And because I think these stats apply to the technology itself (the centralized database), more than the specific uses of it, I’ll continue to use the data revealed in the study. According to his post, “only 25% of marketers currently use centralized decision-making technology, while about 40% plan to.” Okay, I think we all know this is true – not many companies do share their data in this way; whether it’s intra- or inter-team, it tends to be silo’ed.
Here’s another quote from the study: “The top two barriers preventing marketers from adopting centralized decision-making technology are not being internally ready (e.g., organizational structure, corporate culture, internal processes) and financial (lack of budget). IT-related issues only pop up in the third-most cited barrier, existing systems and data are too disparate, and fourth-most cited barrier, difficulty working with internal IT. Two other finance-related barriers, cost is too high and uncertain ROI, trail difficulty working with internal IT by two and seven percentage points, respectively.”
We agree with these findings, they jive well with what we find in the market place. But I’d like to delve in a little more into the being, or not being, ready part.
We have written of it before in these pages – using tools, no matter how sophisticated, is more about the person and process using them than the tool. Give an idiot a high-powered circular-saw, and he’s going to do some damage to the workpiece and or himself. But in the hands of a master craftsman, you get impressive results. Organizations which look at technology only as a device seldom derive real benefits from its deployment. In the case of the Unica study, organizations which are “not internally ready” are aware of the idiot and his tools problem and have not yet experienced sufficient pain to be forced into solving it, or are lost as to how to do it.
We find that the technology does help – having a single shared database of leads, prospects and clients, and sharing access to that information across sales and marketing teams, helps promote the whole concept and enable it. But it doesn’t work at all unless the whole organization is set up to use it properly. Unless the whole company is in fact, “internally ready”. And to us, what sends out the clearest signals of that readiness, are:
- The company executive team is committed to the concept of bringing the two teams together at a fundamental level. Even better is when they have started the process already, and the two teams are now working towards a shared objective. The top people in each of the two teams must be openly in favour of the merger, openly praise initiatives which bring the teams closer, and publicly condemn derisive statements hurled by one group at the other. Without this executive buy-in, we don’t even agree to show up…
- Signs that the teams are working together without technology, where and when and how they can. Do the two teams talk to each other at all? Do the sales people, for example, provide feedback to the marketers regarding the quality of the leads in a constructive way, as opposed to the more usual, “the leads you give us are all crap.”
- The company understands that tools are nice, but that the Process by which the tool is used is just as important. This means that tools can only be used well by people who (a) have been trained on their use, (b) have had their jobs revised, their Job Process Descriptions rewritten, to allow them to use the tool properly, and (c) have had their career path adjusted to show them how far they can go within the company if they succeed in mastering both the tool and the process which drives it.
So the first thing we do when we begin an assignment is to pin down the objectives the executive team have in mind behind the desire to integrate their sales and marketing teams. If the goal is a realistic one, we continue. It hasn’t happened to us yet, but we’ve heard of teams who say they want to integrate sales and marketing because they need a 300% improvement in sales and they must have it tomorrow. And it’s not the 300% that would scare us off, it’s the tomorrow part.
So whether you call it Centralized Decision-Making or Integrating Sales and Marketing teams, it can be made to work and work well. But you do have to make it an official goal and know what you want to achieve. And it has to be a top-down and bottom-up approach to get the right focus of effort and buy-in.
And if you’d like to know how ready your own organization is to Integrate its Sales and Marketing teams using Sales and Inbound Marketing Automation, why not try our Readiness Survey?
Bit-by-Bit #25 from Eric.